Sherman Says: Local grocery chain gives White House dose of grassroots reality
Wednesday July 24, 2013 | By:Dave Sherman |
SPRINGVILLE — The announcement last week that Wegmans would be altering health insurance eligibility standards, for those employees who work less than 30 hours a week, should worry those who give blanket approval to the Affordable Care Act.
Under the new policy, which will not take effect until 2015 for existing part-time employees, Wegmans will offer health insurance to only employees who work 30 hours or more, per week. It also reported that employees who need to work additional hours, in order to qualify for full-time status, and, therefore, health insurance, will be given the opportunity to do so.
Wegmans has a reputation for treating employees well. One of the most visible perks was its policy of offering employer-subsidized health insurance, for part-time employees. Under the shackles of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, it had to react as a business, not as a best friend.
Enter one of Western New York’s most successful business owners, who also happens to be a freshman congressman.
Rep. Chris Collins said Wegmans’ decision to change its employee benefit policy is another example of why “Obamacare is bad for business, bad for workers [and] bad for America.”
Dan Danner, president of the National Federation of Independent Business, has reached out to Main Street America, to help it weather the storm.
“One of the toughest realities facing your business today is the fact that Obamacare is the law of the land. And while it pains me to say this, at this point, you must prepare for what’s coming,” he wrote, in a recent column.
What does the White House have to say, about these inconvenient truths?
“Independent analyses conducted by the RAND Corporation, Urban Institute and the Congressional Budget Office have found that employers will continue to offer health coverage to their workers. Economists agree that employers offer health insurance to help attract and retain the most talented employees and employers will continue to seek out top talent.
Further, when health reform was enacted in Massachusetts, more than five years ago, the percent of businesses offering insurance in Massachusetts increased,” said an official response filed under the heading “Myth debunked,” on the White House website.
Here, in part, is Wegmans’ official statement: “Even though the new health care law is requiring some changes, we are not going to do anything that will hurt our employees. Wegmans will continue to offer health care benefits for part-time employees, but eligibility requirements will change. This change will not take effect for our existing part-time employees until 2015. We have met, one-on-one, with each impacted employee to reassure them and to let them know we are going to do everything we can, to help them through these changes.”
Wegmans now operates 81 supermarkets in six states. In reality, some potential employees will bypass Wegmans now, for other opportunities.
One of the persistent health care questions I kept asking, during the 2008 presidential election campaign, was, “Who is going to pay for this?” Now, Americans who are not offered health care benefits by their employer will be required to shop the market on their own. The federal government said families and individuals who don’t have access to affordable coverage can receive tax credits, to help them purchase it in the private market.
“The new law strengthens the existing employer-based health insurance market, while making the market fair for consumers, by implementing landmark consumer protections,” said a statement by the federal government. Washington will be calling the shots, not the individuals struggling in under-employment and over-taxation.
Danner pledged his group will fight for relief from “this misguided law” and replace it with reform of the high cost of health insurance. That sounds more like Main Street, to me.
David Sherman is the managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.